Google continues move to 100% renewables

This week it was announced by Google that they had taken another step towards their aim of deriving all of their power from renewable sources. The tech giant has just announced the purchase of four onshore wind farms in Sweden. Power from these wind farms is to be used by the company’s data centres located within the country.

Each of the four wind farms is located in a different Sedish municipality. This lowers any risk to Google- ensuring that for instance if one wind farm were to go offline (for example due to dangerously high wind speeds) the wind farms in other areas would remain unaffected.

Google’s data centres have significant power requirements. Just one of the four wind farms purchased by the company is composed of 29 turbines and has a total installed capacity of 59 megawatts.

The Swedish purchase follows the $75 million investment Google made into an onshore wind farm located in Carson County, Texas at the close of last year. The 182 MW wind farm is expected to be fully constructed and operational by the end of the year.

Google’s director of global infrastructure Francois Sterin made the following comment after the completion of the purchase:

“We’re always looking for ways to increase the amount of renewable energy we use. Long term power purchase agreements enable wind farm developers to add new generation capacity to the grid – which is good for the environment – but they also make great financial sense for companies like Google.”

Google is of course not the only company aiming to derive 100% of it’s power from renewable sources. IKEA aims to achieve this by the end of 2020. In August last year the company purchase a wind farm in Northern Ireland to provide power stores in Belfast and Dublin. The company also already owns onshore wind farms in the  mainland UK, France, Germany, Poland, Sweden and Denmark and it is also common for solar PV arrays to be installed onto the roof’s of their stores. In contrast to Google IKEA aims to own all of the renewable generation developments necessary to hit the 100% target rather than simply agree to purchase power from specific sites.  Sky also has as a 100% renewable energy target: emblemised by the wind turbine installed at their headquarters.

Of course it should be remembered that on site power generation is not just the domain of large multinational companies such as Google and IKEA. Nor is it something which can only be achieved using large scale renewable energy developments such as those discussed above.  There are many examples of smaller companies providing their own on site power using smaller scale renewable energy developments such as small and medium scale wind turbines. We at Intelligent Land Investments (Renewable Energy) have been involved in several such developments and feel it is definitely an avenue worth exploring for many companies.

In other news this week saw the launch of the UK Government’s ‘Community Energy Strategy’. The strategy is designed to increase community engagement in energy schemes and help people to reduce their power costs. The strategy was designed following a survey carried out by the Department of Energy and Climate Change (DECC) to determine public interest in community schemes.

The survey revealed that over 50% of those questioned as part of the survey stated that saving money on energy bills would be the ‘major motivation’  for them to get involved in community energy projects. Additionally 40% of respondants revealed that they were already interested in joining a community energy group, participating in collective energy provider switching schemes and participating in collective energy purchasing schemes.

The ‘Community Energy Strategy’ was produced as a response to such opinions. The following plans have already been revealed to fall under the umbrella of the strategy. Firstly, the launch of the £10 million Urban Community Energy Fund designed to kick start community energy projects in England. Secondly, the £1 million Big Energy Saving Fund designed to help support the work of volunteers helping vulnerable members of society to reduce their energy costs. Thirdly, the launch of the community energy saving competition which offers £100,000 to communities to develop innovative approaches to saving energy and money. And lastly, the creation of a ‘one-stop shop’ information resource to help people interested in developing community energy projects.

Speaking at the launch of the strategy Energy and Climate Change Secretary Ed Davey stated:

“We’re at the turning point in developing true community energy.

“The cost of energy is now a major consideration for household budgets, and I want to encourage groups of people across the country to participate in a community energy movement and take real control of their energy bills.

“Community led action, such as collective switching, gives people the power to bring down bills and encourage competition within the energy market.”

Energy and Climate Change Minister Greg Barker also commented:

“The Community Energy Strategy marks a change in the way we approach powering our homes and businesses – bringing communities together and helping them save money – and make money too.

“The Coalition is determined to unleash this potential, assist communities to achieve their ambitions and drive forward the decentralised energy revolution. We want to help more consumers of energy to become producers of energy and in doing so help to break the grip of the dominant big energy companies.”

Maf Smith, Deputy Chief Executive of industry trade body RenewableUK also commented on the strategy launch:

“RenewableUK is committed to helping communities engage in renewable energy, and sponsored a report from Respublica on this last year. We look forward to working with Government, communities and our members on addressing some of the barriers that currently exist to the development of further community ownership.

“With wind power already enjoying massive levels of popularity with communities around the country, the industry is eager to do what it can help find ways of maximising local participation in the future energy supply”.

It should be stated that the onshore wind industry is leading the way in community engagement with renewable energy developments. Last year the industry created a new protocol for onshore wind developers  increasing the level of community benefit taken from wind turbine revenue. Indeed we at Intelligent Land Investments (Renewable Energy) have included a community contribution as a part of all of our developments whether required to or not.

A Good 2013

2013 was a good year for Intelligent Land Investments (Renewable Energy).

A good year for us and a good year for others. For the landowners and farmers across Scotland that we are gaining planning approval for, allowing them access to alternative revenue streams with the potential to secure their businesses. For the community groups and charities which we are supporting across Scotland, helping them to continue the much needed good work which they do. A good year for Scotland’s energy ambitions. The country took a step closer to the ambitious renewable energy targets which are to be met by the end of the decade. We at ILI (RE) were delighted to play our part in helping the nation to achieving these ambitions and look forward to contributing further.

At present ILI (RE) has gained over seventy seperate planning permissions for small and medium scale wind turbine developments in Local Authority Areas across the country. Many more planning applications are currently live and being considered by planning departments. The numerous small scale developments in which we are engaged allow far more people to benefit from renewable energy than the larger scale wind farms that only large scale developers and landowners allow. The revenue created by even a small scale 225wK can mean all the difference for a farmer or landowner. Having spoke to many within Scotland’s farming industry and the farmers and landowners in which we enter into partnership we at ILI (RE) understand the pressures which Scottish farming is facing. For many the revenue from a turbine means being able to reinvest in their businesses; carrying out much needed maintenance work, purchasing new equipment, hiring more staff, keeping pace with ever rising costs, improving yields and efficiency, even simply keeping a traditional family business within a family.

Additionally given the scale and spread of our developments ILI (RE) has been able to offer people innovative solutions to grid issues which had previously ruled out the possibility of development. Whether it be the use of off-grid storage or demand, the creation of new grid links  or the linking together of geographically close developments we at ILI (RE) have been able to spread the benefits of renewable energy generation and government feed-in tariffs far wider than would have been possible from the development of large scale wind farms.

It should be remembered that all of ILI (RE)’s completed developments offer a community benefit to the area in which it is located. A portion of the revenue generated from all of our turbines will be allocated to either a Local Authority Area’s Community Benefit Fund or to a designated local charity. Not all Local Authority Areas in Scotland require a Community Benefit as part of a renewable energy development application. Despite this such a benefit is a part of all of our applications regardless of their location. In areas such as South Lanarkshire, where the council has established a Community Benefit Fund, we contribute to the pot; allowing Local Authorities to target funding where needed. In areas such as East Renfrewshire, which does not have a central fund, we have established a partnership with a local charity working within the community. In this case we have entered in partnership with East Renfrewshire Good Causes.

East Renfrewshire Good Causes (ERGC) was established in 2007. From that time the charity has helped over 1000 people within the East Renfrewshire area; working to improve their quality of life. Whether it be by providing educational support, procuring medical equipment or organising days out ERGC has provided vital support to many vulnerable people. It is point of pride that ILI (RE) has been able to support, not just the vital work done by ERGC, charities and community groups across Scotland. The community benefit funding from 70 planning approvals alone represents potentially almost £2 million worth of charity funding over the 20 year life span of our turbines. We would stress that this figure will increase as more of our potential developments gain planning approval.

Scotland and the UK moved a step closer to achieving their renewable energy generation targets in 2013. We at ILI (RE) were proud that our developments helped contribute to this progress. Just we will be proud to help move us closer still to these targets in 2014. More electricity being generated from renewable sources such as onshore wind means; importing less fossil fuels, less exposure to volatile markets, cheaper energy bills, reduced carbon emissions and the creation of more jobs. Renewable energy was one the UK’s fastest growing industries in 2013.

The potential of onshore wind is beginning to be seen. As has been discussed in this blog previously new UK wind generation records are being set with increasing regularity. But this month it was Denmark that fully demonstrated the potential of wind energy to the world. The month of December saw several new and startling wind generation records being set in Denmark. Firstly, 54.8% of electricity demand for the month of December was met by wind energy. Over half of the entire country’s electricity usage for the entire month! In December 2012 33.5% of electricity demand was met by wind energy. Secondly, on the 21st of December 102% of electricity demand was met by wind power. A surplus of energy even when every other single electricity source is discounted. Lastly, over the course of the entire year 33.2% of electricity demand was met by wind power.This in a year noted by network operator Energinet.dk as being not particularly windy. From all these new records then we can see the role which wind energy can play in meeting a nations electricity needs. A statement from an Energinet.dk spokesman noted that:

“The records do not only apply to Denmark. They are also world records. Because no other countries have as large a wind power capacity in proportion to the size of the electricity consumption, as we do in Denmark.”

It is our hope that the good news continues to come in, not just for ourselves but for all of our landowners.

 

National Grid to publish constraint payment information for all forms of energy generation

Last week, industry trade body Scottish Renewables announced that it had been in contact with the National Grid to request more balance in it’s reporting of constraint payments to wind turbine developers.

Constraint payments are payments made to energy generators at times of low demand. When there is a surplus of power in the National Grid generators are paid at a pre-agreed rate to shut down until power demand increases. Constraint payments act as compensation for revenue lost from ceasing to generate and supply power.

Scottish Renewables request to the National Grid was made following the publication of an article in the Scottish Times. The article attempted to detail the level of constraint payments which have been made to wind energy generators at times of low demand. It transpired that the article had been based upon “highly contested” projections of future wind constraint payments rather than actual data. One industry insider was quoted as describing the article as “tosh”. Indeed, the National Grid itself, whose projections the article had been based upon, described the article as highly misleading.

In the last financial year £28 million was paid out to wind energy generators in constraint payments. Whilst this apparently large sum makes for good headlines it should be placed into context. £28 million was paid out to wind energy generators whilst £138 million in constraint payments was paid out to coal, gas and other generators – almost six times as much. No breakdown of these costs has ever been published making it impossible to accurately state how much in constraint payments has been paid out to any form of energy generation technology apart from wind.

Following their contact with Scottish Renewables the National Grid has now confirmed that they have agreed to publish breakdown cost of constraint payments  for other forms of energy generation. The first publication of this information is expected before the end of February. A spokesperson for the National Grid made the point that until now it had only ever been wind energy constraint payment information that anyone had requested. This rather revealing comment  suggests that articles on constraint payments in many mainstream media publications have been motivated by an anti-wind energy sentiment rather than an urge to seriously examine the issue of constraint payments and the true cost of the various forms of energy generation which supply the National Grid.

Following discussions with Scottish Renewables a National Grid spokeswoman made the following comment:

“We have discussed this issue with Scottish Renewables and we are more than happy to meet this request in full. It’s vital that we provide clear information about how we constrain energy generation to balance the power grid.”

Niall Stuart, Chief Executive for Scottish Renewables made the following statement:

“Wind was responsible for 14% of all constraint payments in the first half of this financial year, with coal, gas and hydro accounting for the vast majority of the other 86%.

“Total constraint payments were equal to £161.2m and the cost of constraining wind was £23.3m, meaning that coal, gas and other generators received £137.9m – six times the amount paid to wind.

“Despite this, National Grid only publishes detailed figures on payments to wind, with no breakdown given for the other sectors.

“In the interests of transparency and an open debate about the costs and benefits of all forms of electricity, it is time for the grid operator to publish details of payments to other individual sectors – not just to wind.

“Constraint payments are an essential part of managing the grid, but the public deserves to know where their money is being spent, and the fact that payments to wind are significantly less than those made to coal and gas generation.”

This week, Scottish Renewables also published a report produced by consultancy group O’Herlihy and Co. The report aimed to ascertain the amount of people employed in the Scottish renewable energy industry. 540 companies were surveyed making this the most comprehensive study of its type yet produced.

The report found that 11,695 people are currently in full time employment in Scotland’s renewable energy industry. This represents a 5% increase on last year’s findings and demonstrates both the growth and employment potential of the industry. Interestingly, 5% growth represents a higher level of job creation than the Scottish economy more generally. The study also broke down employment by region and industry sector. The majority of jobs in renewable energy (54%) are located in the Central Belt. The Highlands & Islands (17%) and the North East (14%) are also renewable energy employment hubs.

Onshore wind energy was found to be the industry’s biggest employer with 39% of jobs in this sector. Offshore wind was the second biggest employer with 21% of jobs in this sector. Wave/Tidal and Bioenergy were also significant employers, both providing 9% of the renewable energy industry’s jobs. All other sectors were classed as insignificant employers (at least in terms of number of jobs compared to other sectors).

The data for employment by area and employment by sector were then cross examined. This revealed that Onshore wind and Hydro energy are the biggest renewable employers in the Highlands & Islands. Onshore wind ‘dominates’ employment in Glasgow and is also the ‘most significant employer in the South of Scotland and Lothian. Finally the North East is the country’s hub for Offshore Wind with ‘key concentration’ of jobs in this sector located in this region; taking advantage of the regions long standing experience of marine engineering.

The report also surveyed the 540 renewable energy companies to gauge their expectations for the coming year. 294 organisations (54%) felt their level of employment would increase in 2014. 229 organisations (42%) felt their level of employment would remain the same and just 9 organisations (1.6%) felt their employment level would decrease in 2014. The remaining organisations either did not know or did not respond. From this survey it can taken that Scotland’s renewable energy industry is expecting to continue to grow over the course of 2014.

Joss Blamire, Scottish Renewables Senior Policy Manager made the following statement at the publication of the report:

“These latest figures show the renewables industry has seen steady growth in the number of people being employed despite an uncertain year.

“The breadth of job opportunities for project managers, ecologists and engineers has led to a wide range of people seeing renewable energy as a sector where they can use their skills and training.”

From the news this week we can see that the Scottish renewables industry is looking ahead to a bright 2014. Growth and job creation are expected to continue, generation levels are expected to continue their upward trend and it is hoped that the quality of reporting, particularly on the wind industry, will improve. We here at Intelligent Land Investments (Renewable Energy) look forward in playing our part in moving Scotland closer to it’s renewable energy generation targets.

 

New UK Wind Energy Records Set

Last week it was announced by industry trade body RenewableUK that the month of December 2013 had seen several wind power records being broken. The announcement followed the publication of electricity generation statistics for December by the National Grid. Despite the high-winds experienced in the UK over the course of December it should be noted that the setting of new records does not simply represent a particularly blustery month but rather the continuation of an upwards trend.

The first record which was broken was the amount of wind power generated in a single month. December saw 2,481,080 MWh (Megawatt hours) of electricity being generated from wind power. This level of generation is enough to power 5.7 million British homes at a time of year which traditionally sees an increase in power usage and demand. The previous record was set in October 2013 when 1,956,437 MWh of electricity was generated from the wind. Crucially, however, this increase in generation led to an increase in the use of wind power by the UK. In December 2013 10% of the UK’s total power demand was sourced from wind power. In comparison, October 2013 saw 8% of the UK’s total energy demand being sourced from wind.

Records were also broken for the amount of electricity generated from wind power over the course of a single week and a single day. The week beginning Monday the 16th of December saw 783,886 MWh of electricity being produced from wind power. This level of power generation represented 13% of the weeks total electricity demand. The 21st of December was the day on which the single day generation record was broken. 132,812 MWh of electricty was generated from wind power representing a notable 17% of the days total electricity demand. The single day generation record had set as recently as the 29th of November. The regularity with which new records are being set reveals the progress that the UK’s wind industry is making in increasing capacity and reducing the country’s dependence upon fossil fuel imports. Indeed around 500 Megawatts of new wind capacity was installed and connected into the National Grid between June and November 2013.

Maf Smith, Deputy Chief Executive of RenewableUK made the following statement whilst announcing the new records:

“This is a towering achievement for the British wind energy industry. It provides cast-iron proof that the direction of travel away from dirty fossil fuels to clean renewable sources is unstoppable.

“In December, we generated more electricity from wind for British homes and businesses than during any other month on record – and we also hit weekly and daily highs.

“This gives us a great sense of confidence for the year ahead, when we will continue to increase the amount of clean power we generate from wind, onshore and offshore.

“As we do so, we are lessening our dependence on excruciatingly expensive imports of fossil fuels which have driven people’s fuel bills up. British wind energy is providing a better alternative – a stable, secure, cost-effective supply of home-grown power”.

Of course it should be remembered that the figures released by the National Grid do not represent the full amount of wind energy being generated in the UK. There are a large amount of wind turbines in the UK, particularly within the small to medium scale (the scale at which we at Intelligent Land Investments (Renewable Energy) specialise in) which do not feed power into the National Grid. Such turbines will be supplying power locally or on-site. The owners of such developments are not required to supply real time output data to the National Grid and as such will not have been included in their figures.

It should be noted that UK wind power breaking such records as this is set to become a regular occurrence in the near future as more turbines are consented, constructed and begin to supply power into the National Grid. We at Intelligent Land Investments (Renewable Energy) are looking forward to playing our part in this process as more of our developments are completed in the very near future.

In other news, figures released by Spain’s national grid operator have revealed that wind power has become the country’s dominant electricty source in 2013. Red Electrica de Espana (REE) published a report which revealed that for the very first time wind power contributed more to meeting electricty demand within the country than any other source. Over the course of 2013 wind met 21.1% of Spanish electricity demand. This was enough to produce more than Spain’s fleet of nuclear plants which met 21%. In total 53,926 GWh (Gigawatt hours) of electricity was produced from wind power in 2013. This represents an increase of 12% over 2012.

It should be noted that other forms of renewable energy also saw an increase in their output. Hydropower generation soared to 32,205 GWh; a 16% increase on the historic average helped by high levels of rainfall. Solar energy also contributed more due an increase in capacity. In 2013 173 MW of  new wind power capacity was introduced into the grid, 140 MW of solar PV and 300 MW of solar thermal capacity were also added to the system. These increases mean that renewable technologies now account for 49.1% of installed Spanish capacity.

The success of the Spanish embrace of renewable power can also be seen in the reduced output of more traditional forms of electricity generation. Output from traditional gas fired power plants dropped a dramatic 34.2%. Output from coal fired plants dropped 27.3% and even nuclear output dropped  by 8.3%. These reductions combined with a 2.1% drop in total power demand and increased use of renewable power has meant that the greenhouse gas emissions produced by the Spanish power sector are estimated to have dropped an incredible 23.1% last year to 61.4 million tonnes. These figures demonstrate that an electricity supply system based upon renewables not only works for end users but also serves to increase energy security and reduce carbon emissions.

We at Intelligent Land Investments (Renewable Energy) are delighted to have played a part in setting new wind generation records. We also look forward to helping set new records with our already installed turbines and also those of our developments which will have completed construction in the near future.